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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Are your kids - or even you - becoming a screen addict?

Gaming and screen viewing habits may become addictive
Are you, or is someone you care about, an addict?

I'm not talking here about an addiction to some substance. Illicit drugs, prescription pain killers, alcohol.

I'm talking about something that many people in 21st century America, certainly among the younger generations, take part in as a daily activity - video gaming.

Jacob Passey with the New York Post has reported that at some point later this year the World Health Organization will come out with their 11th update to the International Classification of Diseases.

The ICD is a well-respected and referenced guidebook which describes a variety of diseases. It further notes causes, symptoms, and ramifications.

The Post reports that an early draft includes "Gaming Disorder", essentially an addiction to video gaming. The disorder includes a behavior pattern which "is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning."

In a look into the possibility of gaming addictions back in 2016, CNN interviewed Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile. He stated: "The first study I began in 1999, to basically try to show video game addiction isn't a real thing, and it turns out I was wrong!"

Gentile went on to further describe the results of his research as follows:
"Even though different researchers across the world may define the problem somewhat differently, or ask different questions in different countries with differently aged kids, we find almost the same results across the world. The estimates perhaps vary somewhat, but they all seem to come out somewhere between about 4 and 10 percent: that's the amount of gamers I would classify as addicted."

The Post column stated that the American Psychiatric Association had considered the disorder for DSM-5, which was released five years ago. 

However, that latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders did not include anything in regards to an Internet or gaming disorder, stating that more research was needed before formal inclusion.

It's not just kids who are developing potentially harmful habits where the modern information, communication, and entertainment tech is concerned. A piece for MarketWatch by Quentin Fottrell in December 2016 stated that "parents with tweens and teens (children aged eight to 18 years) spend over nine hours with screen media each day."

That may sound like a lot of hours. Surely you don't spend that amount of time in front of a screen? But consider your usage. 

Many spend time at work in front of a computer screen. Then add in time spent watching television. Factor in social networking on a laptop, home PC, and your phone. And there are parents also involved in video gaming. It all adds up.

Parents need to be concerned about the amount of time that their children spend watching television, on their phones with social media and other activities, and engaged with Internet gaming. Get them involved in activities outside the home, where they actually must learn to interact in person with peers and adults.

Of course, being a good example yourself goes a long way towards getting kids to buy in to your parenting. Make sure that you are spending time with other adults outside the home. And perhaps more importantly, that you are spending time with your family in both indoor and outdoor non-screen activities.

I'm not trying to tell anyone to unplug and give up gaming, or social media, or watching television. It was the ancient Roman playwright known as Terence who first wrote "moderation in all things." Some 2,000 years later, that saying applies well once again to the amount of time we spend in front of a screen.

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